Taco Pizza

Hello from Costa Rica! I hope everyone is having a happy holiday. This Christmas was very non-traditional for me. Instead of spending time with my family, I decided to go away with my boyfriend and his family. Of course I missed having a morning at home – waking up a bit too early to snoop all the presents, and having a big breakfast with my family…but I really can’t complain. Costa Rica is beautiful. There are monkeys everywhere! It’s weird. They’re like little obnoxious people who steal your food. Cute little obnoxious people. I’ll do a post on this lovely place when I get back.

Before I left I made this wicked-good Taco Pizza. Another non-traditional pizza to go with this non-traditional holiday. I like patterns.

To make the pizza dough: Mix yeast with warm water and set aside for 8 to 10 minutes.

Mix flour, salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl.

With speed on low, drizzle in yeast/water mixture. Allow to mix until totally combined.

Cover bowl with a towel and set bowl in a warm, draft-free place.

Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.

Pour black beans into a saucepan. Add seasonings to taste and heat up beans over medium-low heat. Use a potato masher to mash the beans to desired texture. Continue cooking/heating beans over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer runny (should be the texture of refried beans. Set aside.

Fry up your tortilla chips (no picture for this).

Place oven rack in the bottom position in the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Remove half the pizza dough from the bowl. Place remaining half in a large plastic bag and refrigerate, saving for another use. With hands, spread pizza dough on an oiled baking sheet, making sure it’s relatively thin. Spread layer of refried beans all over pizza crust.

Sprinkle mixed grated cheeses over the top. Place pan in the oven (in the bottom half of the oven) and bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Watch it to make sure crust doesn’t burn.

Remove pizza from oven. Look at that cheesy goodness.

Sprinkle on shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cilantro leaves.

Mix together sour cream and hot sauce, adding enough hot sauce to make the mixture pourable. With a spoon (or you can put it in a pastry bag) drizzle mixture over finished pizza.

Slice it up and enjoy!

Taco Pizza
Makes 1 pizza
Recipe taken from The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
1-½ cup Warm Water
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
⅓ cups Olive Oil
1 can (14 Ounce) Black Beans
1 teaspoon Taco Seasoning (prepared, Or Make Your Own)
4 whole Corn Tortillas, Sliced Into Thin Strips
½ cups Canola Oil, For Frying
1 cup Grated Sharp Cheddar
1 cup Grated Monterey Jack Cheese
1 head Green Leaf Lettuce, Sliced/shredded Thin
2 whole Ripe Tomatoes, Diced
½ cups Cilantro Leaves
¼ cups Sour Cream
3 Tablespoons Hot Sauce (more To Taste)

Directions:
Make the pizza dough: Mix yeast with warm water and set aside for 8 to 10 minutes. Mix flour, salt, and olive oil in a mixing bowl. With speed on low, drizzle in yeast/water mixture. Allow to mix until totally combined. Cover bowl with a towel and set bowl in a warm, draft-free place. Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.

Pour black beans into a saucepan. Add seasonings to taste and heat up beans over medium-low heat. Use a potato masher to mash the beans to desired texture. Continue cooking/heating beans over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until no longer runny (should be the texture of refried beans. Set aside.
In a small skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. When hot enough to fry, drop in the tortilla strips in batches, frying quickly and removing from oil with a fork when crisp–about 30 to 45 seconds per batch. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.

Place oven rack in the bottom position in the oven. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Remove half the pizza dough from the bowl. Place remaining half in a large plastic bag and refrigerate, saving for another use. With hands, spread pizza dough on an oiled baking sheet, making sure it’s relatively thin. Spread layer of refried beans all over pizza crust. Sprinkle mixed grated cheeses over the top. Place pan in the oven (in the bottom half of the oven) and bake for 9 to 12 minutes. Watch it to make sure crust doesn’t burn.

Remove pizza from oven. Sprinkle on shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, and cilantro leaves.
Mix together sour cream and hot sauce, adding enough hot sauce to make the mixture pourable. With a spoon (or you can put it in a pastry bag) drizzle mixture over finished pizza.

Sprinkle with tortilla strips. Cut into squares and serve immediately with good quality salsa.

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Nanaimo Bars

Christmas is this weekend! Whoa.

Have I told you that I work in a shopping mall? Well, I do. While I’m going to school I work in a bookstore so that I can pay for college, but it’s more than that. I really like the people I work with, I like talking to customers about books AND I get a mad discount. So things are usually good.

As you know it is currently the holiday season, so this is the time of year where going to work is not so fun. Customers can be angry, rude, and plain and simply crazy! If we don’t have a book they are looking for many of them freak out. Here is some stuff I hear on a daily basis:

Customer: “Five cents for a bag? I donate to enough charities and don’t need to donate to yours”.
My thoughts: I don’t care.

Customer: “Why the hell are you selling books at the Canadian price when the American dollar is at par”?
My thoughts: I don’t make the prices, the publishers do.

Customer: “I’m looking for a book. It’s blue”.
My thoughts: ?

Customer: “I ordered that book a week ago and now it won’t make it for Christmas? I need it NOW”.
My thoughts: Stop last minute shopping.

There are nice customers too. There always are, and of course they usually out number the crazy ones. But it’s the crazy ones that I remember because they’re so ridiculous! People just need to relax. Sit down, have a coffee, and breathe. When I’m stressed I like to run. And when I’m not running I like to bake. It’s a vicious cycle.

I love these nanaimo bars. I was never really into the whole nanaimo thing until I went to my boyfriend’s Grandma’s house back in October and she served these. I fell in love and added them to my Christmas baking list as soon as I got home. The center is more of a buttercream, but still has that custard texture. The crust is buttery and soft and will blow your mind! I hope you enjoy these. I did. My thighs not so much.

Let’s start with the crust. Melt together the butter, brown sugar, and cocoa. I did mine in a pot, but a microwave or a double broiler would be great too!

Beat the egg, and quickly whisk it into the hot chocolate mixture. You need to add the egg slowly and keep the whisk moving, otherwise you will have scrambled eggs! Mix in the graham crackers, coconut, and walnuts.

Press the crust into an 8×8 pan that has been lined with parchment. Put the crust into the fridge to chill for a half hour. I hate waiting.

Cream together the powdered sugar, butter, and custard powder. Add the cream slowly, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Spread the cream layer evenly over the crust. Back in the fridge for another half hour or so.

Melt together the butter and chocolate (either a double boiler or microwave) and pour over the chilled cream layer. Put the pan back in the fridge for it to set up.

Cut into small squares (since they are really rich) and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Namaimo Bars
Makes enough for an 8×8-inch pan
Recipe adapted from Baked Bree

Ingredients
Crust:
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Middle Layer:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup room temperature butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons custard powder

Chocolate layer:
3 ounces (1/3 cup) chocolate chips
1/4 cup (1 stick) butter

Instructions
Crust:
Start with the crust. Melt together the butter, brown sugar, and cocoa. I did mine in a pot, but a microwave or a double broiler would be great too!

Beat the egg, and quickly whisk it into the hot chocolate mixture. You need to add the egg slowly and keep the whisk moving, otherwise you will have scrambled eggs!

Mix in the graham crackers, coconut, and walnuts. Press the crust into an 8×8 pan that has been lined with parchment. Put the crust into the fridge to chill for a half hour.

Buttercream Layer:
Cream together the powdered sugar, butter, and custard powder. Add the cream slowly, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Spread the cream layer evenly over the crust. Back in the fridge for another half hour or so.

Chocolate Topping:
Melt together the butter and chocolate (either a double boiler or microwave) and pour over the chilled cream layer. Put the pan back in the fridge for it to set up.

Cut into small squares (since they are really rich) and keep in the fridge until ready to serve.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I love when things go right. You know? Like when you do well on that test you studied so hard for? Or even better – you change your hair colour and get a happy surprise when you look in the mirror. I love that. Seriously. Sometimes I want to take my hair stylist out for a fancy dinner and shower her in gifts.

These cookies went right into my mouth. Not only are they totally cute, but they crackled perfectly while baking AND had the chewiest, fudgiest, center! A total success and a new favorite cookie of mine.

So, add these to your holiday baking list! Because you like it when things go right too. I can feel it.

Let’s begin, shall we? In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir it into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours. Waiting is stupid…but necessary.

Roll dough into one inch balls with lightly oiled palms (you can use a cookie scoop to portion the dough, a tablespoon or a rounded teaspoon depending on what size you like).

Coat each ball in confectioners’ sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.

Ok, now that’s just pretty…

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool. Enjoy everyone!

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie
Recipe adapted from 17 and Baking
Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions
In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll dough into one inch balls with lightly oiled palms (you can use a cookie scoop to portion the dough, a tablespoon or a rounded teaspoon depending on what size you like).

Coat each ball in confectioners’ sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

Carrot Cake {and Happy Birthday to Me!}

I made a cake. Yesterday was my 24th birthday and I wanted to celebrate with something sweet that makes me happy.

Having a December birthday is weird. As a kid, there were a few “Christmas-Birthday” gifts (a 13 year olds worst nightmare) and I often got money which I then spent on other peoples Christmas gifts soon after. Now that I’m in College, my birthday lies in the middle of exams. This sucks big time. No one is available to hang out and I end up having to spend my birthday studying! Silly eh? At lease there’s cake. Cake can always make a girl smile.

Now, you might be thinking “carrot cake for your birthday? Really?”. And the answer is YES!

When I first started dating my boyfriend his parents kept mentioning this little cafe in a town near by that sold “the best carrot cake/cake in general/sweet thing ever”. I was skeptical. You see, I didn’t like carrot cake. The only stuff I’d ever had was at church bake sales and it always had raisins in it. Yech. What are those short, cute, ladies thinking?!

Anyway, I won’t ever turn down a new dessert, especially one with such high praise. As I slid my fork into that double-decker, moist, deliciousness, and placed the cake in my mouth…I fell in love. I fell in love with a cake. And since that first bite I’ve been wanting to make a carrot cake that matched that spectacular taste.

The verdict? This cake is the second best carrot cake ever! haha, I didn’t completely get it. I WILL make this again, and the only thing I would change would be to take out the walnuts. I really like a big slice of cake that isn’t broken up too much, and I find the walnuts do that.

The icing though? Holy freaking moley. You could drink this stuff. It’s so creamy and tastes like a dream.

Let’s get baking shall we?

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch round cakepans with waxed paper. Lightly grease and flour the waxed paper. Set pans aside. Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Put eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla in a large bowl.

Beat them all together at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Fold in grated carrot.

Fold in pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center come out clean.

Prepare your buttermilk glaze.

Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers; cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes.

Cool completely on wire racks.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Place a big scoop of icing on top of the cake. And spread it around. Make sure to put it on thick!

Gently place the second cake atop the first one.

Evenly distribute icing on the top and on the sides. If you want to get fancy, you can stick this in the fridge so the icing can set and then add on one more even layer of icing.

Carrot Cake
Recipe taken from the Tasty Kitchen website.

Ingredients:
Cake
2 cups All-purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
3 whole Large Eggs
2 cups Sugar
¾ cups Vegetable Oil
¾ cups Buttermilk
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2 cups Grated Carrot
1 can (8 Oz. Can) Crushed Pineapple, Drained
3-½ ounces, weight Flaked Coconut
1 cup Chopped Pecans

Buttermilk glaze:
½ cups Sugar
¾ teaspoons Baking Soda
¼ cups Buttermilk
¼ cups Butter Or Margarine
½ Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Cream Cheese Frosting
¾ cups Butter Or Margarine, Softened
11 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, softened
3 cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions:
Cake
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 8-inch (or 9-inch) round cakepans with waxed paper. Lightly grease and flour the waxed paper. Set pans aside.
Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
Beat eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in grated carrot, pineapple, coconut, and pecans. Pour batter into prepared cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center come out clean. Drizzle Buttermilk Glaze evenly over layers; cool in pans on wire racks for 15 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Cream Cheese Frosting between layers and on the top and sides of cake.

Buttermilk glaze
Bring sugar, baking soda, buttermilk, butter or margarine, and light corn syrup to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Boil, stirring often, for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Cream cheese frosting
Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth.

Pumpkin Spice Latte

I’m busy. Next Monday and Thursday are my final exams and I’m swamped with final assignments and studying. Dinners have been a cinch though. Since my boy knows I’m swamped with school, he’s been taking over the kitchen for dinner and whipping up some really awesome eats! Tonight we’re having this quick pasta. Awesome.

Since I’m so busy I really like the times when I can just mellow out and take a breather. I made this latte this morning so that I had something to look forward to last night, and also so that my day started out happy. It’s cheaper than a coffee shop, it’s better than a coffee shop, and it plain and simply makes me happy. Have a great week everyone! xoxo

Pumpkin Spice Latte
From The Pastry Affair who adapted it from The Kitchn
Enough for two large mugs

Ingredients:
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups strongly brewed coffee, hot
Whipped cream (optional, I didn’t use any)

Directions:
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, warm milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, pumpkin, and brown sugar until steaming (do not boil!). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour milk mixture into a large blender and blend milk until frothy. Note: Be very careful when blending hot liquids as they expand and blend really quick.

Pour milk mixture evenly between 2 large mugs. Pour 1 cup hot coffee in each mug and top with whipped cream and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Serve hot!

Christmas Baking Time – 2011 edition

Holy December! It’s here! I can finally turn on Justin Beiber’s Mistletoe my Christmas music and dance around my living room. I can finally decorate without feeling overeager and I can finally get into the spirit!

Nothing gets me into the Christmas spirit like Christmas baking. The smells of family favorite recipes, ginger, chocolate, and mint fill my apartment with sweet scents and memories. I genuinely feel an intense sense of happiness when something is in the oven. Who doesn’t though really?

This year I have a sassy line up of baked goods old and new and I’m so excited to share! What are you baking this year?

Candy:
Puppy Chow
Buckeyes
Oreo Balls by How Sweet It Is
Salted Butter Caramels by Our Kitchen
Rum Balls by My Baking Addiction
Peanut Brittle by Brown Eyed Baker

Cake-ish things:
Christmas Tree Cupcakes by Confessions of a Cookbook Quees
Chocolate Peppermint Roll by Bakers Royale

Cookies:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Kiss Cookies
Gingerbread Gals and Dudes by Bake at 350
Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha Cookies by Sugarcrafter
Chocolate crinkle cookies – recipe to come!

Squares:
Pecan Pie Bars
Chocolate and Peanut Butter Dreams
Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares
Easy Lemon Crumb Bars
Nanaimo Bars by Baked Bree.
Eggnog Cheesecake Bars by Brown Eyed Baker
Shortbread by The Cookbook Chronicles

Happy Baking!! I can’t wait to hear what you come up with. Time to set up my tree!